The 10 Best Songs of the Week

This week was swept up in the major return of Richard D. James and the first new Aphex Twin music in forever. But, if that wasn’t enough to make everyone’s week (or year), we heard fantastic new music from Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar, TV on the Radio, Dornik, and a slew of others. It’s not easy compiling these lists, as some very worthy artists always seem to get left out (see Jessie Ware, Iceage), but that should only work to emphasize how fantastic the songs that made it on here are. Check out this week’s winners and let us know what your feeling are in the comments.

10. “First” – Cold War Kids

“First” comes from a bitter tongue leaving a sorry feeling in its wake. The lyrics are impatient and full of blame, yet overflow with ambiguous details, much like a brawl between loved ones. “First you lose trust, then you get worried,” marks the initial unfolding of the tight knot of marriage, which is noted with a former reference to a “vow.” A stomp, clap rhythm carries the sorrowful lyrics in a triumphant manner, as the Cold War Kids display their distinctive capacity to stir excitement with stories of deep melancholy. A series of strong piano chords are layered with a steady slamming drum and jittery guitars for a simple, straightforward rock song with a truthful exposition of heartbreak. Though there is nothing novel per say to note about “First”, The Cold War Kids’ tried and true talents in emphatic enunciation and consistent musical rock energy remains to prove fruitful, as it did for them back in 2006 with Hang Me Up To Dry. Expectations for the group’s upcoming album Hold My Home to drop next month are set high. - Shelby Tatomir

9. “On My Mind” - Dornik

London drummer and vocalist Dornik, whom many have ID’d as MJ reincarnate, released another uncollected single this week, “On My Mind.” Emanating from the PMR laboratory of avant-goodness (see Jessie Ware, for whom Dornik acted as dummer before breaking away to just do Dornik), “On My Mind” features classic funk riffs, choreography-ready, though revivified by synth buoyancy. It’s a chillwave track in the vein of Toro Y Moi but muddled with the vocal dexterity of the King of Pop, most notably a replica of the sheer hiccup caesura. This eclectic song is laced with elements of retrofuturist pop (reedy funk and reverbed snare), 90s R&B (a cappella harmony), and contemporary studio varnish á la Disclosure’s textural signatures: bubble, spring, and echo. - Lawrence Lenhart

8. “Happy Idiot” – TV On the Radio

TV on the Radio have always made music that sounds like a night-time anthem—for roaming the streets of a big city or for bouts of midnight introspection. They've achieved this once again on their new single "Happy Idiot," off their upcoming fifth studio record record Seeds (their first without late bassist Gerard Smith). The elements of dance-rock that surface, especially in the high-energy percussion, really drive the song while Tunde Adebimpe's smooth vocals have an air of pensiveness and melancholy give it emotional depth. These two factors come together to create a sense of urgency that strikes quite an expressive chord. The breathy call-backs of the climax are almost chilling. – Hailey Simpson

7. “Home Alone” (feat. Young Thug, PeeWee Longway, & Cash Out) - Gucci Mane

“Oh, my, good grief, damn, who is this guy?” Indeed, Mr. Davis. While still often entertaining—and occasionally gripping—there’s no doubt that Gucci Mane has lost a step. For every song like the Trap God intro, there is yet another without the color and eccentricity that made him a cult hero in the middle of the last decade. Fortunately, the perpetually incarcerated Atlantan has entrusted his vocals to some of the most talented voices in rap. “Home Alone”, a twisted Halloween theme from Gucci’s Brick Factory Vol. 2, leaves most of the heavy lifting to Young Thug, who gets deployed here on hook and bridge duty. This leaves the ice creamed one to cut loose and grimace like it’s 2006: “Told that bitch she might turn to stone if she look back.”Paul Thompson

6. “Made In Water” – Rural Carrier

Often, despite an artist’s specific setting of place, time, and emotion, we imprint our own experiences onto the sounds at hand. Sometimes the two end up being similar, but if not, their divergences are not the point. The most successful music is able to balance the two narratives of listener and creator—without interference from either—using both to create something beyond casual ponderings. Rural Carrier is Athens, Ohio artist Jacob Koestler and its new release Double Single is three songs of subdued, synth-heavy meditation on what ails him, you, and everyone who gives any sort of shit. “Made in Water” is as disorienting as it is calming, as dual vocals (one heavily modulated) meander through a creation myth, constructing a scene that on its placid surface seems idyllic. The song’s reverence toward nature is reminiscent of Mount Eerie, and yet Rural Carrier’s account of trees, moss, and water is backlit by a sinister, unnamed presence that blossoms in an extended concluding synth passage. The Floydian coda allows big thoughts to take shape, try flying, then curl to dust under their own utterances. We truly do not understand the world we inhabit, but “Made in Water” is an attempt at grasping, despite knowing full well humans always come up short. – Michael McDermit

5. “Ekleipsis” - CYPHR

Hardening its resolve over five epic minutes, “Ekleipsis” is cinematic: one can almost imagine tribal forces trudging slowly towards some history-defining battle. A fragile balance between thin, hopeful bells, suspenseful pads and beating drums, the track captures the apprehension and mixed feelings that soldiers must undergo as they shed their humanity for the ruthless visage of war. Despite this militant backdrop, the song is actually quite minimal—allowing listeners room to feel the momentous weight of each snare-hit and the vulnerability of each bell. However, we will have to wait till the end of the month for the outcome of this conflict, when “Ekleipsis” comes out on the eponymous EP via Her Records. - Justin Kwok

4. “Rookies of the Future” (feat. Action Bronson & Riff Raff) - Alchemist

If you’re surprised that Action Bronson has chosen David Wells as his single-art avatar, you haven’t been paying attention. Over a triumphant loop from the Alchemist, the rap game’s two most outlandish figures (Rap Game Geno Petralli and Rap Game Rance Mulliniks, respectively) get their comic book on. Riff Raff is flying his biplane so high that he can feel the sun blowing kisses from five inches away. Bronson is camped out in left field with Gary Sheffield, cocking the mic back and forth in anticipation. Questions as to Riff Raff’s intentions should start to take a backseat (in some kind of illegal vehicle) to the undeniable improvement. – Paul Thompson

3. “Wide Awake” – J Macis

For a moment, just imagine the flow of a river, its silver trail streaming over the rocks in steady pulses. It’s jaggedly beautiful in the way things are in the wild, all twisted branches and tousled moss. The ripples have a certain rhythm. Then, suddenly: cascades. Three tiers of flat rock split the flow, becoming a waterfall. After, the river again braces itself on an uneven bed of rocks . Now, slowly, gently, set down your vaporizers and water pipes and imagine the waterfall’s journey as “Wide Awake” from Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis’ latest record, Tied to a Star. The waterfall was the gorgeous twin lead that transitions into the beginning of the chorus, before Mascis sings the title. The water’s flow was the ripple of acoustic guitars that builds toward the fall. To put it another way: if you like the brilliant guitartistry of Dinosaur Jr., and are open-minded enough to hear that played on mostly acoustic instruments, then surely Tied to a Star’s standout track won’t disappoint. Namasté. - Ethan Milner

2. “minipops 67 [120.2][source Field Mix]” - Aphex Twin

The first fresh sounds we’ve heard from Aphex Twin in thirteen years, this oddly-titled track doesn’t disappoint. Simultaneously bizarre and familiar, “minipops 67” mixes psychedelic textures, a bouncy bass-groove, and those meticulously-sculpted percussions that only Aphex could have programmed. Yet, a diverse sound palette and fluid form makes describing this beat quite difficult; I will say, though, that “minipops 67” is enchanting in an extraterrestrial manner: its mysterious affect and fantastical sounds providing a lush environment for the imagination. The track grows intimate at the end, as “minipops” and a humanoid voice break through otherworldly landscapes. - Justin Kwok

1. “Nah” - Junglepussy

Toward the end of Junglepussy’s mind-bending “Nah”, she raps: “I seen you eating Mickey D’s, know you ain’t love yourself/I’m up in Trader Joe’s, shopping cart full of health.” Now forget you read that. On paper, excerpts from the 22-year-old’s debut single play out like forgotten dead prez-Erykah Badu duets—another condescending quote-unquote conscious rapper. This is anything but. “Nah” is strikingly smart, cartoonishly funny, visceral, blunt, empathetic. Junglepussy (“Females have pussies, so it’s the most feminine world ever”) clearly owes a great stylistic debt to a certain Mr. Giles, but her inversion of Cam’s style makes self-help sound menacing. Gather ‘round—we’re eating great eel. – Paul Thompson

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